School nurses keep students healthy
Stephanie Robinson, the registered nurse at Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy, has been a nurse for 30 years. She started out at the Cook Country School of Nursing, and worked at the Cook County Hospital, one of the few free hospitals in Chicago. For the most part, she worked as a geriatric and pediatric nurse during that time.
"I love teenagers and love being their nurse," Robinson says. "I don't know when I would retire, because I'm having so much fun."
The main differences between working in a hospital and working in a school as a nurse is the autonomy, says Robinson. At the high school, her only supervisor is the principal, whereas in a hospital, there are many nurses and doctors that she would need to report to.
At a high school, a nurse cannot diagnose a student. They can only refer them to a doctor to diagnose and treat them. For instance, if a student comes into Robinson's office with red eyes, she has to send them to a doctor, because even if the parents think it might be allergies, she cannot change it being conjunctivitis, which is highly contagious, she says.
One thing that Robinson sees often is that if students are injured on the weekend, parents will wait and just tell their children to go to the nurse at school, instead of sending them to the emergency room, she says. For instance, recently a boy fell off his bike and passed out outside of school. His mother waited and had him go to Robinson the next day. This could be a dangerous approach, Robinson says, because the boy could have had a concussion.
A full plate
A school nurse has a lot of responsibilities, because often times, they are the only nurse in the building. Robinson is responsible for the health of all 850 students and 85 faculty and staff members. Sometimes, when she cannot get everything done at work, she takes home her paperwork or filing to do while watching television, she says.
"That's how I help relieve the stress, doing work that I can't get done in the 7-hour day," she says.
Although a school nurse gets paid less than a nurse in a hospital, he or she gets more vacation time. School nurses get summer, spring break and winter break off, says Robinson.
A piece of advice for people looking to become a school nurse is that you have to be tolerant and understanding, Robinson says.
"Young people have a lot of issues these days," Robinson says. "You have to accept that people come from different cultures and have different values. You have to be tolerant."